Prasong Luemuang has both his work and that of young artists on display at the Pan Boonmee Boonsri Art Gallery.
Prasong Luemuang has both his work and that of young artists on display at the Pan Boonmee Boonsri Art Gallery.

Lamphun beckons as art hub

Art October 01, 2018 01:00

By Somluck Srimalee
The Nation

7,160 Viewed

Five renowned artists welcome visitors to see their work, and it’s a trend sure to grow

THOUGH LAMPHUN is a small province and is often neglected by travellers in a hurry to get to Chiang Mai, it’s home to four celebrated artists. Inson Wongsam, Prasong Luemuang, Praphan Srisuta and Charoon Boonsuan have all opened galleries in the hope of making the peaceful provincial capital a gathering place for art lovers. 

A 20-minute drive from revered Phra That Hariphunchai on Highway 106 on the way to Muang Nga district, Charoon welcomes visitors to his Baan Bao Kaew Art Gallery, which is filled with his characteristic impressionist and semi-abstract paintings.

Charoon Boonsuan’s Baan Bao Kaew Art Gallery houses his impressionist and semi-abstract paintings.

“Lamphun is my wife’s hometown,” he says. “The gallery is open daily from 9 to 5 and there’s no admission charge, so everyone is welcome to come and share and learn about the arts.”

He does most of the sharing – he has more than 2,000 painting in oils and acrylics on view. They collectively trace his artistic career, spanning more than 50 years. The journey begins with a small New Year greeting card he painted as a child.

Charoon Boonsuan

“People always ask why I like to paint flowers so much,” Charoon says. “I say I don’t like to paint flowers, but I like the colours, and flowers have a multitude of colours. I’ve continued to paint flowers, but they’ve become semi-abstract and I use only one colour. 

“I still paint every day, and every morning art students come to learn with me.”

Inson Wongsam’s home-studio, Dhamma Park and Gallery, welcomes visitors every weekend.

Next stop, on the way to Pa Sang district, is the Dhamma Park and Gallery run by National Artist Inson Wongsam. It’s open only weekends, but there are 20,000 of his paintings, wood sculptures and woodcuts to see, some dating back to 1960. Add to this more than 200 bronze sculptures of Inson’s late wife, Wanida Wongsam, who was born as Venetia Walkey.

“I still do all the painting by myself,” he says. “For the wood sculptures, I do sketches and send them to my team to execute. My inspirations come from my long experience – the 50-plus years of my working life.”

Inson Wongsam

This is the living legend who travelled solo by scooter from Bangkok to Italy in 1963. Italy was the homeland of his revered professor, Silpa Bhirasri, who is esteemed as “the father of Thai modern art”, and Inson wanted to learn more about art there. 

He set off with a friend, but when they reached India, the friend decided to turn back, and Inson continued the odyssey alone. Along the way he did more sketches and paintings and sold them to cover costs. 

A year and a half later, he was in Italy, where he spent three months studying art. 

Then he did the same in France for another year, and finally settled down in France to work for two more years.

“My paintings are inspired by Buddhist philosophy and they’re mostly abstract paintings and wood sculptures,” he explains.

Prasong Luemuang has both his work and that of young artists on display at the Pan Boonmee Boonsri Art Gallery.

A 20-minute drive further on and you come to the Pan Boonmee Boonsri Art Gallery, which Prasong Luemuang opened in 2012. 

“I wanted to give young artists a chance to show their work here and the public the opportunity to learn more about Buddhist teaching, as represented in my work,” he says. “The inspiration for my paintings comes from Buddhism, Taoism and Zen and is presented in both realistic and abstract forms.”

Free of charge you can view about 1,000 of Prasong’s pieces and other works by the young artists he mentors. A new building is being constructed to expand the exhibition space and is expected to be ready by the end of this year. 

Praphan Srisuta shares more than 60 pieces of his pieces at his own gallery. 

Woodcut master Praphan Srisuta has his gallery right in Muang Lamphun on a two-rai property, presenting more than 60 pieces. 

Praphan got interested in art while still quite young and continued at Silpakorn University. He once took part in an exhibition at the YMCA in Singapore and sold 69 of the 71 pieces he took along.

“I love to do woodcut paintings because you can do many editions, but I also work on oil, in abstract themes,” Praphan says.

Another place to see art in Muang district, due to open before the year is over, will be called Monster Studio. Phattharakorn Singh-Tong, 40, is setting it up on a one-rai rice field as a better showcase for his paintings that his current workplace in a longan orchard. He’ll share 600 semi-abstract oils and watercolours also inspired by Buddhist philosophy.

Phattharakorn Sing-Tong shows some of his work that will be relocated to a new site in January. 

Phattharakorn had set his art aside for seven years but plunged back in two years ago. Needing a complete change in his life and his pace of living, Phattharakorn debunked to quiet Lamphun, where his wife was born and raised.

“I don’t have a studio at home – I’ve just been renting the space in the longan orchard,” he says. “But I can walk to work every day and paint whatever catches my fancy in the surroundings, such as the longan farmers taking care of their fruit. 

“The limited resources weren’t a problem and I quickly found I could paint without expensive gear, just by using what I was feeling inside and the inspiring nature around me. Some days I have to deal with the rain but it doesn’t stop me painting. And when the paint dries, it has a new texture. This is nature’s way and it’s how I work today.”

Always Welcome

Charoon Boonsuan’s Baan Bao Kaew Art Gallery is at 33/2 Expressway No 106, Muang Nga, Muang district. It’s open daily from 9 to 5. Call (053) 510739 or see “buakaew.artgallery” on Facebook.

Inson Wongsam’s Dhamma Park Gallery is at 109/2 Moo 1, Baan Pa Sang Noi, Baan Pen, Muang district. It’s open weekends from 9 to 5. Call (080) 789 5098

Prasong Luemuang’s Pan Boonmee Boonsri Art Gallery is at 123/6 Soi 5/1 Moo 5 Ton-Tong, Muang district. It’s open daily from 9 to 5. 

Praphan Srisuta’s gallery is at Baan Pang Kee Soi 3 Moo 8, Ton Tong, Muang district. It’s open daily from 9 to 5. 

Phattharakorn Singh-Tong’s Monster Studio will open in January at Vieng Yong in Muang district. Call (095) 450 4918.